The time has come for my solo travel adventure to Nicaragua. I have left winter behind and am spending six weeks in the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes. I have been talking about doing this for a year and I have actually taken the steps to make it happen. My first stop in Nicaragua will be the colonial city of León.
León, Nicaragua is both a district and is the name of the main city within that district.
León is a land of volcanoes, hot weather and interesting cities. Here,you will find the ruins of one of the first Spanish colonial cities that were built in the continent, which are preserved thanks to the volcanic sand that buried the site after a volcanic eruption. The elegant city of León preserves its attractive historical center and colonial buildings. Also, there are many natural attractions as well as little known and remote rural areas.
Leon is one of the most important cities in the country. The center itself is an attractive destination due to its museums, art galleries, colorful colonial architecture, an imposing cathedral, and the facades of its churches. The city also has hotels, restaurants, local tour operators, bars and clubs. It is also a good starting point to explore the region.
Leon has eight volcanoes, all of which are part of the ‘Cordillera de Los Maribios’. The most interesting might be Cerro Negro, which is a young, small volcano that offers incredible views and slopes to practice snowboarding. Other sites are the volcanoes of Santa Clara, Momotombito (volcano/island) and the natural reserves of Pilas-El Hoyo and Telica-Rota. Also, there are two volcanic lagoons: Asososca and Monte Galan.
The City of Leon
Originally, the city of Leon, Nicaragua was founded in 1542 by the Spanish conqueror Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba. However, its inhabitants moved it to its current position in 1610, due to the intense activity of the Momotombo Volcano.
With a new geographical position, Leon had a flourishing productive life and became an important city governed by Spanish colonizers. On August 21st, 1685, a band of pirates – led by the French William Dampier – attacked the city. The invaders left the cathedral, many churches, public buildings and colonial houses in deplorable state.
After the attack, the inhabitants managed to stop the pirates before they could escape by sea. Since Dampier was an architect, they forced him to rebuild the cathedral and the other buildings he and his band destroyed during their visit.
Historically, Leon has always been one of Nicaragua’s most important cities, both economically and socially. In fact, the city functioned as capital of the country on multiple times after the independence (1821), alternating the title with Granada, its eternal rival. The dispute continued until Managua was declared the only and permanent capital of the country.
The city also played a major role when Nicaraguans fought against the dictatorship of the Somoza family, back in the 70’s. There was an important social movement in Leon, which mainly emerged within the students from all over the country that were taking classes at the university of Leon, one of the first in Central America. Some museums and monuments, built as a homage to this period, can be seen throughout the city.
Places to Visit
The ‘Basilica Catedral de La Asunción’, commonly known as the Cathedral of Leon, symbolizes the center of the city. The building is worth a visit not only for the impressive architectural style, but also because it is home to important mausoleums of famous characters, such as Ruben Dario, who is considered the “prince of the Spanish literature”.
The cathedral is located on one side of the Central Park, which is another reference within the city. The area is frequently visited by locals and foreigners who enjoy the shadows of its many trees. Also, the park features many crafts sellers, as well as improvised food and drink stands.
A good option is to take a walk and see the churches of Leon, Nicaragua. The most visited ones are La Recolección, La Merced, El Calvario, Sutiaba, Laborio and Saragoza. Nonetheless, if you have plenty of time, visiting the churches of Guadalupe, San Francisco, San Felipe and San Padre, will be a good decision, since they are part of the architectural and historical heritage of this urban area.
Furthermore, the city is also home to interesting museums and cultural centers. One of them is the Ruben Dario museum, which is actually the house where the famous poet lived during 14 years.
Hostels in Leon, Nicaragua
There are a number of hotels and hostels in Leon, Nicaragua. I am staying at the highly rated Latina Hostel. They even picked me up at the airport and took me directly to the hostel! That says a lot about the level of service they provide.
As a budget minded, solo traveler I enjoy staying in hostels. Trust me when I say that the hostels I have stayed in while in Europe were better than many hotels here in North America. Pools, spas, amazing rooftop patios along with in-house nightclubs and restaurants. All for a fraction of the cost.
Hostel staff are usually young people with an interest in travel. They know the city well and are on hand to give great advice on things to do, what to eat, where to go, and the best way to get there. They understand the experiences that travelers are after.
You can easily make life long friends, share tips & hook up with travel companions. Hostels are full of international travelers. It’s a great place to meet interesting people off all ages.
Sharing sleeping quarters & amenities builds a great communal spirit and is part of the traveler’s adventure. Many hostels offer group activities like movie nights, pub trivia or pool parties to encourage guests to mingle.
Lots of hostels are built into cool, old converted buildings but some offer a totally unique sleeping experience.
I highly recommend booking your hostel with Hostelworld.
You Owe it to Yourself To Check Out This Amazing City
Nicaragua is a country you should put on your list of amazing places to visit. If you go please be sure to put Leon on your list of cities to check out. You will not be disappointed.
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